Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe feels ‘no grounds for hope’ UK response to new jail sentence, husband says

Sean Morrison
·4-min read
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin, was critical of the UK Government's handling of his wife's situation in Iran (PA Media)
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin, was critical of the UK Government's handling of his wife's situation in Iran (PA Media)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe feels there “wasn’t anything said that gave grounds for hope” during an urgent debate on her fresh jail sentence and travel ban from Iran, according to her husband.

The British-Iranian dual national, who watched the House of Commons proceedings from the Middle East, also questioned why the Foreign Secretary opted not to answer the question in person but sent departmental minister James Cleverly instead.

The mother-of-one was handed a fresh jail term of one year and a year-long travel ban in Iran on Monday on new charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime”, having already served a five-year prison sentence after being detained on charges of crimes related to national security.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said: “She watched the urgent question on the (website) link.

“What she noticed was that Dominic Raab hadn’t come to answer for the Government a junior minister had been sent.

“It was like, ‘Listen, we have had seven of these – am I not worth the Foreign Secretary coming along to answer and explain the Government’s policy’?

“I think she did feel that actually there wasn’t anything said that gave grounds for hope.”

Foreign Office minister Mr Cleverly told MPs during Tuesday’s urgent question that the UK would not accept dual nationals being used as “diplomatic leverage”.

But Mr Ratcliffe accused ministers of “enabling the abuse” his wife has suffered through their “reluctance to do anything” that might upset Iran.

He urged the Government to go further and use its new “Magnitsky” sanctions – which target those involved in some of the gravest human rights abuses around the world – against members of Iran’s leadership.

“I think that’s proportionate, that is not extreme – these guys need to feel that this is a bad tactic,” Mr Ratcliffe added.

PA Wire
PA Wire

His comments come after Conservative former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt – who Nazanin, said her husband, noticed wore a face covering during the debate that she had made for him – told the Commons it is “all bark and no bite” if there were no consequences for Iran over “hostage diplomacy”.

Mr Ratcliffe, commenting on the lack of British representation in court at his wife’s most recent hearing, said: “What we got told was that they (the UK Government) didn’t want to do something provocative that could could cause harm to Nazanin.

“And I was like, ‘Are you effing kidding me?’ You either stand up and protect her or you allow it to happen.

“They are taking her to court for the second time on a second stage of nonsense when you’ve invoked diplomatic protection: you need to show that that your protection should be taken seriously.

“And the failure to do that will have emboldened the Revolutionary Guards to follow through and give her the sentence – and they gave the maximum they could.

“The timidity of the Government will have been a contributing factor.”

The strong words from her family follow Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP Tulip Siddiq criticising the Prime Minister for a “dismal failure” in trying to secure her release.

PA Wire
PA Wire

The Labour MP said in the Commons: “The Prime Minister did not even arrange for UK officials to attend Nazanin’s recent court hearing, which might have ensured she got a free and fair trial.

“He still hasn’t got his Government to pay the £400 million debt that we as a country owe Iran.”

Britain is thought to owe Iran as much as £400 million over the non-delivery of tanks in 1979, with the shipment stopped because of the Islamic revolution.

The new jail term also comes amid tensions in the Middle East over Iran’s nuclear programme, with the country abandoning all limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in the wake of former US president Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw from the accord.

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife had been “flat” since the news of her new sentence but that they had jointly decided they would not inform their six-year-old daughter Gabriella until it is confirmed that Nazanin will have to return to prison, should her appeal fail.

“We didn’t want to upset her needlessly because the fundamentals from Gabriella’s perspective is that ‘OK, Mummy’s not coming home today’ – that’s the same as yesterday, but she can still speak to her,” he told PA.

“I think it might be that Nazanin gets put back in prison and we have to tell her that a bit before.

“But… I think the longer she can remain hopeful that it’s going to be over soon, the better.

“We’re not going to lie to her – if she asks, we’ll tell her.”

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